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Surviving the Storm—Turkey’s Labor Movements Under a Junta

In the late 1970s, Turkey faced intense political fragmentation as its parties each struggled for a majority; due to lack of consensus in the more civil channels of politics, the country’s tensions erupted into violence.

Turkish parliament after failed coup attempt in 2016 (2016) Yildiz Yazicioglu  | Wikimedia Commons
Turkish parliament after failed coup attempt in 2016 (2016) Yildiz Yazicioglu | Wikimedia Commons

With engagements between extreme leftists and ultranationalists culminating in a bloodbath, the military orchestrated a coup and instituted martial law under the pretext of restoring social order.

Immediately after the takeover, the junta suspended the constitution and banned all political parties—including labor unions; this drew the attention of the international community, particularly in the context of the global Cold War. As a crucial ally of the West, Turkey faced pressure to democratize and transition away from martial law.

William Meagher, who had previously worked in Turkey with the Agency for International Development, was recruited into the Foreign Service as the labor attaché to Ankara. With strong language skills and a labor management background, Meagher arrived some months after the coup to face the mandated freeze on labor movements by the government.

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Let There be Productivity—U.S. Aid Efforts in Europe and India

The world bore witness to an unprecedented degree of violence and destruction in the wake of the Second World War. The United States notably suffered far less than its allies on account of both its delayed entry into the conflict and its geographical isolation from the war front.

U.S. Marshall Plan Aid Logo (c. 1948-1953), U.S. Government | Wikimedia
U.S. Marshall Plan Aid Logo (c. 1948-1953), U.S. Government | Wikimedia

However, this initial detachment from the action did not reflect in its subsequent endeavours. On the contrary, the U.S. quickly became a crucial Western entity in the rebuilding of the post-war world. Among its more significant projects was the Marshall Plan, a scheme designed to finance rebuilding efforts in Europe. And as amazing as this may at first seem, it certainly met a multitude of difficulties in its formation and implementation from those it sought to aid.

James Silberman encountered such resistance first hand in his career whilst working on the Marshall Plan. The battles that he waged were primarily on two fronts. On the one hand, Britain and France had their separate problems with the U.S. approach, with the former recalcitrant against the acceptance of modernisation and the latter seemingly wary of an American takeover. On the other hand, a communist influence was sweeping over a slew of countries across the continent, such as Austria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. While occasionally successful in installing productivity centers in these countries, Silberman also met resistance and found his efforts obstructed by such ideological lines.
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Expecting the Unexpected in the Philippines: Confronting a Killer

When one thinks of life in the Foreign Service, they imagine living overseas, experiencing different cultures, and trying exotic foods. They picture adventure.

(March 2016) Pexels | pixabay.com
(March 2016) Pexels | pixabay.com

While Foreign Service Officers surely do have their fair share of adventure, it is not always merry and light-hearted. FSOs can come face-to-face with terrorists, hostile foreign leaders, and in the case of FSO David L’Heureux, chef-turned-killers.

L’Heureux arrived in Manila in the Philippines in December 1956 to start the next chapter of his career in the Foreign Service as a Consular Officer. During his three years serving in Manila, he worked in the Special Consular Services and the Passport and Citizenship sections. However, his duties were not limited to these two areas.

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Pinochet’s Trip to London: How the Arrest of the Chilean Dictator Inspired Unprecedented Global Transparency

In October 1998, the British government arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet at the London Bridge hospital, where he was recovering from minor back surgery. The British government planned to extradite Pinochet to Spain, where the Spanish government would then prosecute him for crimes against humanity committed during his reign from 1973 to 1990.

London Bridge Hospital, the Site of Pinochet’s Arrest (2017) James Petts | WikiMedia
London Bridge Hospital, the Site of Pinochet’s Arrest (2017) James Petts | WikiMedia

Although the U.S. government was not strictly involved in the process, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) advocated fiercely for the extradition, inspired by the leadership of then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her well-known commitment to universal human rights.

A legal technicality ultimately allowed Pinochet to return to Chile a free man; however, the incident inspired Secretary Albright and DRL to launch a project that would send a message to dictators around the world that they would not enjoy impunity for their crimes. Robert Ward, a Foreign Service Officer who served in DRL in the late 1990s, describes in his oral history his work with the Office of Freedom of Information Act Services to declassify and release more than 10,000 State Department documents relating to the Pinochet era, a project which ultimately represented a huge stride forward in the advancement of human rights.

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A Miracle Worker in Vietnam—Saving a Young Boy’s Life

Being a U.S. soldier and fighting for your country overseas is an incredible sacrifice. The extended time away from family, necessity to quickly adapt to new environments, and the witnessing of the tragic repercussions of war are all difficulties that soldiers encounter.

Student protesters marching down Langdon Street (1965) uwdigitalcollections | flickr.com
Student protesters marching down Langdon Street (1965) uwdigitalcollections | flickr.com

While the government appreciates all of these men and women for their service, it honors a few particularly ambitious ones as “heroes of war” by awarding them medals for their courage on the battlefield.

The Vietnam War pitted U.S. ally South Vietnam against communist North Vietnam, and occurred in the midst of the Cold War, when the world was divided into competing ideological camps. It was an extremely contentious issue in the United States, bitterly dividing the population. Many pegged the war to be “unwinnable,” and did not see value in sending their boys to fight in a faraway land. Furthermore, the photos and videos sent home from reporters in the field exposed Americans to the true horrors of war, especially its devastating effects on the civilian population.

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The Times They Are a-Changin’—Labor’s Role in the Foreign Service

The United States underwent great political change following the end of World War II, not only fully abandoning its isolationist tendencies, but also contending for and succeeding in establishing international preeminence against the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

Lane Kirkland (2006) Richard Whitney | Wikimedia
Lane Kirkland (2006) Richard Whitney | Wikimedia

During the same time period, the U.S. additionally witnessed political change in its approaches to labor efforts in the Foreign Service. However, the transformation here does not appear to follow a similar positive trend; as Lane Kirkland notes, the value of labor attachés in the Foreign Service significantly decreased, as did the value that officers placed on the labor attaché program in the context of their overarching career.

And yet, in Kirkland’s opinion, neither the Department of Labor nor any labor unions were at fault for this declining presence. On the one hand, he argued that the State Department had actually been a hindering factor to the The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) achieving its full potential by forbidding its incorporation of the labor attaché program. On the other hand, Kirkland noted that Foreign Service personnel did not know the full extent of labor mechanisms that were at their disposal, with the incident involving UN Ambassador Albright’s—admittedly understandable—ignorance of The Tripartite Advisory Panel on International Labor Standards’ (TAPILS) existence highlighting this.

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Egypt Before the Arab Spring: Shifting Tides of Democracy and Westernization

The Arab Spring began in late 2010 as a series of anti-government protests throughout several Middle Eastern countries that permanently altered the political and social climate of the region. The time leading up to, during, and after this event has been full of turmoil and important political change.

 The USIA Experience: Lessons for the Proposed USAID/State Department Merger, June 20, 2017, CSIS Headquarters.
The USIA Experience: Lessons for the Proposed USAID/State Department Merger, June 20, 2017, CSIS Headquarters.

Hilda “Bambi” Arellano served as the USAID Mission Director in Egypt during the years leading up to the Arab Spring, from 2007 to 2010. She saw the changes unfolding as the Egyptian people began to take hold of democratic values and put pressure on their oppressive government, especially in 2009 after President Barack Obama delivered a speech in Cairo, which discussed the relationship between Middle Eastern and Western countries, and highlighted the importance of democratic values. Obama’s speech influenced many Egyptians—who had by then become displeased with their oppressive government—to join the fight for democracy that was building across other parts of the Middle East, and that culminated in the Arab Spring. In this “moment” in U.S. diplomatic history, Hilda Arellano describes how she sensed the looming changes throughout Egypt that would ultimately mark an important period in history.

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